WTF Denmark?

You know what – this Brit is broken!

I am tired of being one of the many skilled, FOREIGN, potential, workers in this country, forced into either accepting a cleaning post or no work at all – and no help finding it!  During my time here I have seen and heard from many others in the same boat and some have been like that for years… It’s only the very lucky ones among us who seem to be able to make a proper go of working here and even they are fed up with the place! Yeah, I hear ya – “go back to where you came from… yadda yadda yadda” – but some of us gave up a lot to be here and it’s hard to start all over again, and I guess I for one have fallen into the trap of living in false hope and denial. Many of us are in a mental state of ‘limbo’ – we don’t feel English/American/Other any more but we’re not feeling very Danish either. Many foreigners I know have learnt the language well, and still have problems settling – how is that going to inspire anyone else to feel as though they have a half decent chance?

So, what’s at fault here…?

Well, it can’t all be blamed on the “crisis” – my Danish man got himself fired and then hired within a week! And, they were/are perfectly good jobs too. Is it the to do with the fact that most Danes speak English, so the international jobs don’t necessarily require a native English speaker? Or is it more to do with the fact that the good jobs just go to the Danes? I’d like to know… It’s hard not to blame it on the whole ‘foreigner’ in DK thing, and think maybe I’m really not as good as I was back home. I have been to the Work In Denmark Workshops (where they condescendingly give advice about writing your CV, handle the interviews, advise you how to write application letters etc). I’ve tried the ‘network’ thing and got myself on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I have had numerous rejections, and had 2 interviews in the whole 3 years I’ve been here. Admittedly, part of that time I’ve put the work thing ‘on hold’ while studying Dansk at Sprogskole, but still… After never having to experience any kind of struggle to find a job ever before, I have decided that the only way to move forward here is to look for work further afield – outside DK! I do accept that maybe I just hear about the non success stories, while other foreigners exist and are happily living a ‘normal’ life here (but I am skeptical)… However, I have also witnessed an un-foreigner friendly remark in the local furniture store, in relation to foreign workers, which left me speechless… We had gone to complain about a delivery, now bear in mind that the store staff knew about me being foreign… Anyway, when we told them about the delivery mix up – the staff’s immediate response was “Were the delivery guys foreign?” (said in a ‘this is typical of them’ kind of way). Very professional…. I obviously slip into the ‘grey’ area of foreign here and I have had the “But we’re not racist…and we don’t mean you…” remark at times.

Which brings us onto the term ‘foreign’…

Over here (in my experience) I have heard that the word can mean non Danes – but it seems that it can also be used to refer to the ‘other’ foreigners – the ones who do not fit into the ‘grey’ area of the term. Apparently there is a distinction….somewhere… Now, I know that there is racism in most countries in the world, but if you google the words ‘Danish’ and ‘Racism’ then you may be surprised at the amount of hits/sites on the topic, for a small country. And, maybe I just don’t get the “humour” here – but it gets tiring when you’ve heard derogatory remarks about the subject several times. I know very well that the comments I’ve heard here would be treated in a very different way within the circles I mixed with in the UK.

Back to the language.

I don’t know how many of us over here (with Danish partners) have been asked if we speak Danish at home… Does no one outside the relationship realise that we would naturally speak the language we used to get to know each other with? I think it’s only fair that you don’t want to talk like a toddler/child to your ‘significant other’, unless you have managed to work out a strict, timed lesson plan – which has proven to be a tricky task… All I’m trying to say here is: no one outside the relationship should be dictating how you conduct yourselves when you speak to each other, in your own home.  Until they have experienced a similar situation – they can’t comment and should just shut the hell up. I have endured this experience, but this is also backed up by others I have encountered from outside DK.

The sad reality…

I have luckily met and know a few Danes who are not related to this post at all and would be surprised at my views here. They just don’t make up for the others, who spoil the interpretation of DK I have. The impression (in brief) I have right now is this: DK has a little too much national pride, is very traditional, set in their ways, and lets face it – a little behind the times. Sadly, these views are not restricted to just this Brit – there are others here who feel the same way. You only have to read the articles and comments left on the Copenhagen Post website for starters to get a general feel for foreigner opinions. Lets hope that future generations mend/repair the views of many foreigners who have been here and gone away again…

Walk a day in my shoes – then judge me 😛

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3 Responses to WTF Denmark?

  1. Anna says:

    I’ve had a bit of a similar experience with job hunting here, but with slightly more positive results. I moved here a few years ago because my previous company transferred me to Copenhagen. Then they decided to close the office, so I was laid off last summer. So, I started job hunting here and all over Europe (I was just as happy to move as to stay, I am not tied to Copenhagen, I just didn’t want to move back to the USA). And it was FAR easier to get interviews in other countries than here – companies willing to fly me out to their offices for interviews – than it was to get interviews here in Copenhagen, where I already live. It somehow mattered LESS in Germany that I didn’t speak German for jobs (where people are far from fluent in English), than it did that I didn’t speak Danish – and this is including companies here where the company language is stated to be English. (I should also mention that I work in IT, so it is a field that has a very high number of companies that have English as the company language.) One company in Denmark, after reading their job at IN ENGLISH that only stated that it required ENGLISH, I applied for it, and talked with them a bit before they realized that I didn’t speak Danish. They then told me I wasn’t qualified because I didn’t speak Danish. I asked if they spoke Danish in the workplace, and they said that they spoke English. So I asked why I needed to be able to speak Danish…the only answer I got was basically just “because you do” and no actual explanation.

    But, not all Danish companies are this way. By chance a friend of mine saw a job ad for a company here, so I applied, half assuming it wouldn’t go anywhere. It’s a very small company (less than 20 employees) and I am now the ONLY one here who doesn’t understand Danish (there are 3 other foreigners, but all speak Danish). But, lucky for me, they decided my job skills were much more important / valuable than my (complete lack of) Danish language skills and hired me.

  2. Oh yes, I am relating so well to what you wrote, my friend.

  3. T. Mark Aylward-Greenway says:

    Yes to all of the above, you got it in a nutshell!

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